Updated: Jan 28
Why 2021 Is Seminal for Digital Transformation
2020: With the surge of remote work and brick and mortar pushed to close their doors, the pandemic forced businesses online. Many industries were impacted by this, one example being that restaurants changed their business models and started focusing on delivery, making deals with Grubhub and other delivery services. Some businesses absolutely exploded such as Microsoft Teams (which in November of 2019 had 20 million users and went to 115M by November 2020). While this may seem like this sort of model changing event does not occur often, we also need to look back in history to really understand what is happening now, and to help us prepare for what is likely to happen in 2021. While there has been some sage advice regarding the New Industrial Revolution, a lot of these predictions miss some very key and relevant points in the original Industrial Revolution.
In the first Industrial Revolution, the change from agriculture to Industry 1.0 was paced. However, the actual profitability of it took a little while longer. There was a period of about 43 years (Engel’s Pause) where wages remained stagnant, but it was clear that profits were moving at a much faster rate. The process and capability to harness the power of the people was one thing but the ability to pay them a better wage took 43 years. Through this lens, we must examine what is currently happening, with the current top valued companies and their owners taking profits without a clear increase in wages, particularly the minimum wage. This might sound incredibly familiar because it is precisely what happened during Engel’s Pause.
If 2021 is an accelerated push into Digital Transformation, we can imagine the huge need that will erupt for positions that did not exist a year ago and for skills that are new, such as data science. While there are a lot of skills that companies will need to acquire, it is probable that we can expect that at the minimum most will be part data science and part business-focused. The roles will begin to start to bifurcate as we see the emergence of many needs and the resulting confusing job descriptions and titles as the jobs and skills echo this shift.
This shift is the fact that technology is moving at a breakneck speed and in 65 years we went from being unable to fly to landing someone on the moon. Since then, we have had 55 years of advancing technology with the last 10 years snowballing in capabilities and power. Whilst the pandemic may seem like an aberration, we must realize that it is an accelerator that has forced changes in 2020 that will significantly impact how businesses are run not only now but 2021 and beyond. Technology is changing rapidly, and companies can diversify assets and profits faster than ever before. Data requirements are exploding, and everyone is struggling to keep up with the pace of innovation from budgetary, management, legal, and security perspectives.
We can be assured of one thing: the confluence of technology and business needs allow for capability and competency to be driven at warp speed. The new requirements are many but what exactly is driving them? Currently, 5G, IoT, AI & ML, and the need for Digital Transformation are the technologies; yet we need organizations, centers of excellence, and outsourced teams to really be able to manage the complexities that will reveal themselves this year. As many customers demand more creativity from operationally outsourced support teams the ideal model has yet to make itself known. Supply chains that were resilient will remain but those that are flexible and supported by a data-powered analytics capability will flourish as more businesses find creative ways to prosper online.
The ability to be agile and adapt to new business channels and scale effectively are not the hallmarks of many companies, but they will be the deciding factor in 2021 as many businesses feel the financial results of the pandemic. While the pace of streaming data, geolocations, and ever-evolving privacy concerns are still extant, we can expect to see some mid-size companies challenging larger companies through better utilization of technology (especially when there is a legacy architecture and unions that make agile changes difficult). The result is many larger competitors will be compromised and outmaneuvered by more agile competitors. Data powered companies will start pushing data-driven ones hard in 2021. Expect to see a large effort to consolidate and buy out competitors but make no mistake 2021 is a seminal year for data transformation and companies without a definitive data strategy will not be able to compete.
About the Author
Asim Razvi is the head of data management and data strategy at Onis Solutions with over 25 years experience in delivering world class solutions in data to clients. He has architected some of the largest hybrid data management solutions for the Fortune 100 and also worked closely to deliver Business Intelligence strategy assessments to them as well. He works and collaborates closely with a number of CDOs and maintains a busy schedule of events and speaking engagements. Outside of work he trains outdoors to maintain a healthy lifestyle and spends time with his family in the wilds of the California mountains.
Vice President Lead, Data Management